Glenn and Joe—Their horses—A storm—A black stump—A rough tumble—Moaning—Stars—Light—A log fire—Tents, and something to eat—Another stranger, who turns out to be well known—Joe has a snack—He studies revenge against the black stump—Boone proposes a bear hunt.
"Do you see any light yet, Joe?"
"Not the least speck that ever was created, except the lightning, and it's gone before I can turn my head to look at it."
The interrogator, Charles Glenn, reclined musingly in a two-horse wagon, the canvas covering of which served in some measure to protect him from the wind and rain. His servant, Joe Beck, was perched upon one of the horses, his shoulders screwed under the scanty folds of an oil-cloth cape, and his knees drawn nearly up to the pommel of the saddle, to avoid the thumping bushes and briers that occasionally assailed him, as the team plunged along in a stumbling pace. Their pathway, or rather their direction, for there was no beaten road, lay along the northern bank of the "Mad Missouri," some two hundred miles above the St. Louis settlement. It was at a time when there were no white men in those regions save a few trappers, traders, and emigrants, and each new sojourner found it convenient to carry with him a means of shelter, as houses of any description were but few and far between.
Our travellers had been told in the morning, when setting out from a temporary village which consisted of a few families of emigrants, with whom they had sojourned the preceding night, that they could attain the desired point by making the river their guide, should they be at a loss to distinguish the faintly-marked pathway that led in a more direct course to the place of destination. The storm coming up suddenly from the north, and showers of hail accompanying the gusts, caused the poor driver to incline his face to the left, to avoid the peltings that assailed him so frequently; and the drenched horses, similarly influenced, had unconsciously departed far from the right line of march; and now, rather than turn his front again to the pitiless blast, which could be the only means of regaining the road, Joe preferred diverging still farther, until he should find himself on the margin of the river, by which time he hoped the storm would abate. At all events, he thought there would be more safety on the beach, which extended out a hundred paces from the water, among the small switches of cotton-wood that grew thereon, than in the midst of the tall trees of the forest, where a heavy branch was every now and then torn off by the wind, and thrown to the earth with a terrible crash. Occasionally a deafening explosion of thunder would burst overhead; and Joe, prostrating himself on the neck of his horse, would, with his eyes closed and his teeth set, bear it out in silence. He spoke not, save to give an occasional word of command to his team, or a brief reply to a question from his master.
It was an odd spectacle to see such a vehicle trudging along at such an hour, where no carriage had ever passed before....